Food: There are very few nice places to eat, but everything is so cheap that you can get a good dinner at a clean, well decorated, sit-down establishment for $10. A few years ago, Wilson had the highest number of restaurants per capita in NC.
Shopping: Shopping is dismal unless you like bargain stores. We have a Target, TJ Maxx and Marshal's all in a row down the road from Wal-Mart and Goody's.
Crime/race relations: Crime is not "really bad" in Wilson, although it is slightly higher than other places of comparable size in NC. The crime is in pockets though and most places are either safe or legitimately dangerous, with little in between. The racial tension is very high and it seems like every race is bitter towards every other race.
Cost of Living: There are very few (and even fewer available) high paying jobs in Wilson because Wilson's cost of living is 23% lower than the US average. A family of 4 can live a nice life in a safe neighborhood for $100K/year. There are also many small towns outside of Wilson with substantially lower costs of living and those provide good alternatives for safer, cheaper places, if you're willing to drive 15 minutes into Wilson for work. A positive: 15 minutes is considered a really long drive in Wilson. Since routing Hwy 264 around Wilson, the city never has routine traffic problems.
Economy: Wilson is most certainly in Eastern North Carolina and anyone who says otherwise is dreaming. Our economy heavily relies on animal and crop farming and manufacturing, which fits the ENC profile. There's a corn field beside the city high school and bus loads of migrant farm workers at Wal-Mart every weekend. We have a regional BB&T headquarter and a Meryl Lynch, but not much else in the way of finance and technology jobs aren't readily available unless they're in conjunction with manufacturing. Wilson County usually has one of the highest unemployment rates in NC and is well above the national average.
Education: The high schools are what are really holding Wilson back. Wilson has some of the best elementary schools in the state, decent middle schools and then high school falls off. They boast having the IB Program, but only a handful of students graduate from it per year and each school only has 4-5 AP classes, which are the same every year. The parents and the school system are both to blame. The people who grew up in Wilson and are now raising families there themselves feel insulted when people suggest that the schools be improved and that their children should take harder classes because admitting that the education is sub-par would be admitting that they aren't as smart either.
Nightlife: Almost completely doesn't exist. The high schoolers spend their weekend nights drinking at someone's house or in a barn. College students have to make their own house parties. Young adults can check out O'Cool's sports bar or the less main-stream Buck's Saloon and that's pretty much the end. A handful of plays run every year for a few days each downtown, there is a 10-screen movie theater with good prices ($7.50/show last I checked), there is a bowling ally that isn't sketchy unless you go late and there are usually Barton College sporting events to attend (especially basketball) or Tob's baseball in the summer. If you're an adult looking to socialize, your best bet is learning to cook and having dinner parties with your friends.